Today Epic Records and Jeep launched a global brand campaign for the car company’s Altitude Edition in which Michael Jackson’s new single “Love Never Felt So Good” is featured in four 30-second TV commercials. The campaign will air from today (May 8) and run through summer.
The track is from Jackson's second posthumous release “Xscape” (out May 13, Epic) and was co-written in 1983 by Michael Jackson in a session with Paul Anka (who played piano on the track) and Kathy Wakefield. Two new versions of the song were recorded: one produced by John McClain co-executor of the Jackson estate (with John Branca) is featured in the new ad; and another helmed by the trio of Timbaland, J-Roc and Justin Timberlake finds JT duetting with Michael and debuted this week at No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The campaign's origin came in late-March when Epic chairman and CEO Antonio “LA” Reid played the album for Chrysler CMO Olivier Francois. “I played him almost every song,” Reid says. “When we played 'Love Never Felt So Good' he made the connection and went ‘Bingo! This was what I was looking for!'" Francois, for his part, says that when he first heard the track he got up off the couch in the Epic offices and started dancing and hopes the ad will have the same impact on consumers.
A former music producer and publisher, Francois is credited with rejuvenating Chrysler's music branding strategy with an impressive string of ads featuring major music placements. This includes Eminem’s two-minute Super Bowl ad for Chrysler; the new Fiat spot with Sean “Ciroc" Combs at a desert party while Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” blares; and a previous ad for Jeep with Lenny Kravitz. Jackson, however, provides Francois a greater opportunity to take his work global.
When asked how big the spend would be on the new campaign Francois wouldn’t give an exact figure but said it would be bigger than the Diddy Fiat spot. According to Kantar Media, Fiat spent $17 million on measured U.S. media in the first three months of 2014, when the still-active Diddy campaign was just starting to roll out.
Jeep also hired multicultural ad agency GlobalHue for the creative who gave the commercial a summer-y outdoor feel. One ad is shot primarily at the beach, another is more World-Cup-friendly and shows celebratory Latin American soccer fans while another focuses on basketball and features Cleveland Cavalier point guard Kyrie Irving. That campaign was co-sponsored by USA Basketball, which holds global b-ball tournaments throughout summer.
Nearly five years since Michael Jackson's unexpected passing, his brand shows little sign of flagging. Since his death on June 25, 2009, Jackson's albums have sold 12.8 million in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. His “This Is It” concert film grossed $261 million worldwide while "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour," a partnership between the Jackson estate and Cirque du Soleil, last year became the ninth-top-grossing tour of all time with earnings of $325.1 million from 407 shows drawing nearly 3 million concertgoers. A second Cirque du Soleil show, "One," began a residency at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas last year.
Music from "Xscape," according to Reid, will also be featured in ads by Xperia, a line smartphones and tablets by Sony, Epic’s parent company. The label chair said the ads will air outside of the U.S. He also confirmed that Pepsi, which has had a long-standing relationship with Jackson, has no immediate plans for a tie-in with this album. A video currently being filmed for the Timberlake version of “Love,” however, will feature one rather large product placement: a Jeep Altitude.